Monday, 15 May 2017

Stopped in our tracks

Oops: the cause of our hold-up
We have been stopped in our tracks for many reasons during our boating career – broken down, run aground, rubbish round the prop, iced in – but never in more than ten years have we been halted by a broken lock beam.
But that's what happened today. After a morning of blustery winds and showers we reached the top of the Wolverhampton 21 flight just in time to meet the lock-keeper stapling a 'flight closed until further notice' notice on the top gate. Seemingly a beam on lock ten had broken and would need replacement. It might take four days – if they had a suitable one available.
Wall to wall graffiti and burnt out building at Horseley junction
Never mind; we are not in a hurry but, on the other hand, I can think of far nicer places to be stuck than Wolverhampton. A massive new estate of nicely designed houses spreads back from the canalside as you near the town but, as we soon discovered that is a false dawn. The run into the town is one of the most depressing I can recall, a squalid mile or two of semi-derelict sites, scrap yards, wall to wall graffiti and floating detritus.
Relic of the industrial past, the mouldering gantry crane
Still there on the outskirts is the rusting relic that is the imposing Babcock & Wilcox gantry crane that once shifted steel girders at this Chillington Wharf rail/canal interchange. It's been out of use since the sixties and though Grade II listed, hasn't had much love since.
Walking back to photograph it, we met a local who recalled playing around on it as a young lad thirty years a go. He painted a depressing picture of modern day Wolverhampton - no jobs unless you're prepared to work for the minimum wage or less, fewer and fewer places for youngsters like his with parks and youth clubs closing, mess and litter all around ('if the place looks like a dump, people will treat it like a dump') and a council intent on building a new shopping centre when the present one is full of shut shops.
One day this will be a new 'canalside quarter' we are told
Things might improve. A new 'Canalside Quarter' is promised in the area utilising, as the website puts it 'its unique character to provide both desirable city centre living and a destination for visitors with shops, walkways, cycle paths and leisure facilities.' It's a look-alike of many such bland schemes but, to be honest, it can't be worse than what's there. Near the end of the run in some striking blocks of flats are already emerging but it's too little, too late really.
Latest news is that they've found a replacement beam and repairs start tomorrow so we won't be held up too long. We are yearning for the countryside of the Staffs & Worcs.

...and finally. Among the graffiti sprayers was a 9/11 conspiracy theorist whose messages were all along the canal:

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